Saturday, November 10, 2007

Changu Narayan

My classmate Sonam and I had planned yesterday to hike up to Nagarkot, the highest mountain on the east side of the Kathmandu valley. We were to stay over night and enjoy sunrise over the city before hiking down an alternate route.

We took a taxi to the town of Thali, just west of the Manohara river, hiked through some potato fields and up the hill to Changu Narayan, a temple first constructed about 1600 years ago to the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and much to our surprise is surrounded by a quaint artist's village specializing in thangka, wood carving, and knitted wool garments.

Changu Narayan on the hill left

From the temple we headed up and across a ridge that descends from Nagarkot, enjoying a small picnic lunch along the way. Heavy rain clouds began to blow across the mountains, the wind picked up and the temperature became cooler. Rain started falling and we made it to within an hour's climb of the summit before deciding to turn back for the road and a bus back to Bhaktapur.

Giving up was disappointing. Especially so after waking up this morning to a crystal clear sky, the air sparkling clean after yesterday's washing. On the other hand, if we hadn't come back I wouldn't have had a chance to have enjoyed the cultural program that was performed here at the Dragon Guest House.

Shortly after dark a group of around 20 teenagers in ethnic attire arrived with their own PA system and right there in the driveway put on a 40 minute show of Nepali and Himalayan folk music and dance. The kids are students at a local boarding school for orphaned children, a school for which the owner of our guest house served as a director for the past 15 years. The occasion, the reason they showed up last night, and not last week, is Tihar, the festival of lights, known more widely perhaps by it's Hindi name, Diwali, which is being celebrated this weekend across most of South Asia.

Much like Christmas caroling in the west, during Tihar groups of young people get together and roam the neighborhoods singing in front of private residences. The families who are serenaded return the favor with refreshments and token rewards of money. Unfortunately, the high-spirited take things to extremes and last night the guest house was woken at 3am by a group of kids who just didn't know when to quit.

Consequently I woke up late this morning. By the time I had washed up and dressed it was already 7:00.



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